Four weeks ago, when my three-member “JP” family of Jasmin, Jana and myself visited my youngest brother Michael, who’s now studying as a freshman at the La Salle-St. Benilde, we chanced upon entering the largest shopping complex in the country—and, according to Forbes magazine, “the 3rd largest shopping mall in the world.”
Mall of Asia. If you’ve ever been to our capital city and found time to shop, linger around, stroll, munch on Krispy Kreme donuts, watch an IMAX movie or, as we all love to do, “window shop,” chances are you’ve visited SM’s Mall of Asia.
I’ve stepped inside thrice. And, when we discuss the topic that’s dissected on these pages—Sports—I’ve written an article or two about bringing my nine-year-old daughter Jana to do ice-skating. And, just the same in this trip last month, Jana spent three hours gliding on ice, swaying her hips right to left, pushing forward with the ice blades.
We thought that was it. We concluded that MOA (the mall’s shortcut name)—a mall and not a coliseum—offered no other game.
Wrong! Because after we partook of a late dinner and, on the way out to find a taxi, our group of five—Jasmin, Jana, my brother Michael, his girlfriend, June Jumao-as, and myself—found ourselves strolling near the Ice-Skating Rink. Guess what our eyes witnessed?
Hockey. Yes. The sport that’s as foreign to the Philippines as bobsledding is to Ethiopia or marathon-running is to Antarctica.
When SM built the Mall of Asia and it’s ice-skating facility back in May 2006, it did not scrimp on money. Instead of building a tiny facility that can only house ice-skaters, it built an imposing rectangle that’s Olympic-size. Plus, more amenities: A giant electronic screen loomed to show the score; Bose speakers wrapped the rink and echoed disco music; a giant Mt. Everest picture towered to add a perfect cool to the word “cool.”
Who did we see? Americans. Canadians. Caucasians. Out of the 15 players who swung the puck with the stick, I counted five of them. Which is to be expected. Since hockey is a sport famous in winter countries—think of Finland, Russia, Slovakia—then it’s but natural to see plenty of them in RP soil.
We also saw girls. Yes. While we watch the National Hockey League (NHL) on ESPN and see that it’s an all-boys game, at the Mall of Asia, two girls with long, flowing hair mixed with the boys.
The game was six against six. And just like what we see on TV, that Monday at 9 p.m., we saw a reenactment. They wore helmets, shoulder pads, elbow pads, padded shorts, shin pads, gloves. Protection, as we know, is top priority in hockey. With razor-sharp metal blades on the skating shoes and hockey sticks that can kill with a spank on the face—not to mention all the shoving and bumping—hockey is, as we know, not a game as safe as chess or ping-pong.
Sitting at the sidelines watching for 30 minutes, we were treated to The NHL In Manila. One Caucasian wore a red jersey with the flag of Canada. Another glided on ice like a ballerina. Another maneuvered the slippery ice like the Michael Jordan of hockey, Wayne Gretzky.
We saw sprints. One player dashed to the goal. Teammates passed. Opponents intercepted. Two referees blew whistles.
We saw how the goalie is the team’s pivotal player. Like in football, if the goalie thwarts every attempt, the opponent can never win. This applies even more so for hockey where the goal box is narrow and the goalie is fully-padded and looms large.
We saw the significance of height. The taller the player, the faster he can glide, the longer his reach to catch the puck. Like in basketball and swimming, height is might.
What a sight at night!
So, the next time you’re up north and happen to stroll inside MOA, wait until the mall closes at 9 p.m. Then you’ll see winter in Manila.